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LETTER: "Is there too much power in the hands of one individual?"


Tuesday 14 September 2021

LETTER: "Is there too much power in the hands of one individual?"

There are "very important questions that need urgent and unambiguous answers from the Chief Minister", writes Tim Chesney, who believes that 'Farmhouse-gate' is one "fiasco" too many and risks tarnishing the island's reputation.

"Deputy Ferbrache is the Chief Minister, the Chairman of the CCA (which has near absolute powers to direct and control the population on a whim), and the President of the most important committee, Policy and Resources.

I ask this question: is there too much power concentrated in the hands of one individual, and is this good for Guernsey and is this healthy in a democracy? 

In my opinion, there has been in recent months a clear pattern of incompetence, ineptitude and muddle cascading down on us, and in the process, this has tarnished the island's reputation for good government.

We have experienced too many scandal or fiasco 'gates' in just a few months, following hard on the heels, one after the other. 

Look at the track record:

In April this year, there was the infamous 'Gatland-gate' scandal when the CCA scored a spectacular own goal to rival any fiasco that could be imagined. With absolute powers, no transparency and with no scrutiny of their decisions and actions, perhaps this encouraged members of the CCA to feel invincible. In any event, those involved flouted the regulations that they had made and which they enforced ruthlessly on the rest of us, and in the process, they undermined trust locally and they made a mockery of Guernsey outside this island when UK national media picked up on the story. They attracted well-deserved opprobrium and heads on the CCA and some of its advisors should have rolled. Instead of that, some threats of legal action were made by the Chairman, and I fear that this created a rather intimidatory current which swirled around and possibly tended to snuff out free speech and criticism - criticism that was, and is, quite justified given the gravity of what happened.

This was followed in quick succession by 'FOI gate', where calls for a Freedom of Information law in Guernsey - which was prompted mainly by what was seen (or more accurately what was not seen) during the 'Gatland-gate' scandal - became another embarrassment for Guernsey. As private Eye magazine reported it so witheringly: "Chief Minister and CCA President Peter Ferbrache says the States is 'wasting its time discussing FOI ... something that very few people are interested in'. He certainly isn't. The 'Gatland-gate' cover-up would have left CCA members open to unwelcome scrutiny were there to be an FOI law'. In any case, says Ferbrache, FOI is unnecessary 'because the States is already open, transparent and ethical'. So that's all right then!"

We then witnessed the excruciating spectacle of incompetence from the CCA in the long-awaited 'opening' of the island's borders in early July - a fiasco that perhaps one could refer to as 'Border-gate'. This descended rapidly into something approaching a black comedy, with the CCA flip-flopping, and then foisting impractical requirements on to travellers at the last moment. As a direct result of this confusion at a critical time, much of the summer tourist season was lost for the island, and the holiday plans of so many local people and visitors were crushed along with any remaining confidence in the CCA and its leadership.

Hot on the heels of that costly failure for the island we had 'Farmhouse-gate', and we have all now read the news reports about that, and the timelines, and what was apparently said and done and written by the principal protagonists, and I suspect that most of us have drawn our own inferences. Indeed as Deputy Gavin St Pier said: 'the public are not stupid and given the implausible explanations, they think they know what happened'. Suffice it to say that in my opinion 'Farmhouse-gate' and its apparent direct association with the Chief Minister is once again very bad optics for Guernsey itself. 

As inquiries continue it has been ruled that Deputy Ferbrache should not be required to answer questions in the States about his alleged involvement in 'Farmhouse-gate' or about the apparent leaks in advance of important CCA statements. Interestingly, even before the ruling was made it was reported that the Chief Minister had said that he would not answer any questions on the subject of Farmhouse-gate in the States.

So there remain very important questions indeed that do need urgent and unambiguous answers from the Chief Minister, and one, therefore, hopes that the inquiry that is now taking place will be full and transparent and that all the findings will be published as soon as it is completed. 

I wonder if MPs would be permitted to ask questions of the PM in the UK Parliament in similar circumstances on a subject like this of such obvious public interest and which raises so many serious concerns? 

In my opinion, Deputy Ferbrache should stand down from his various high profile roles in the States, at least pending the result of the inquiry into 'Farmhouse-gate'. After all, what has so far been reported in the media and disclosed in emails and conversations etc is considered to be sufficiently serious as to warrant a criminal investigation by the Guernsey Border Agency. 

And just when the chalice of unpleasant surprises was surely brimmed full we now have the 'CEO-gate' fiasco, where P&R - of which Deputy Ferbrache is President - evidently decided that it was prudent to kick out the CEO of the States of Guernsey in extraordinary haste, but with no public explanation at all, no properly considered Plan B, and, you guessed it, with not a jot of transparency as to the reasons for such an impulsive act, and we now see in the media that this action has cost taxpayers - already under the cosh and facing large tax increases, and with many facing straitened times - at least £400,000 and probably a lot more than this in the final analysis. 

Just think how many nurses or teachers or social care workers could, for example, have been hired with this money that has disappeared down the plughole through this total profligacy with public money.  

Is this really the style and substance of leadership that we want and we need in Guernsey? I don't think it is.”

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Posted by Vincent Cockett on
You forgot the childish threat of litigation to anyone who dares to have a bad opinion on his ability
Posted by Gary Blanchford on
This is nothing more than a vindictive bias rant and totally unwarranted..
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